The most important thing on your wedding day is for you and your fiancé to have fun and get married. The next most important thing is to get great pictures! But, in order to get great pictures, we’ll need to plan out just enough time to take them. Enter, the dreaded schedule (dun dun dunnnn). It’s one of the first, most important, and most difficult tasks to get done… and unfortunately, since every wedding is unique, it can be hard to find good advice on how to do it. But, if it’s done well, having a good schedule (and sticking to it) is the biggest key to having a stress-free day and ending up with a photo album worthy of a bridal magazine.
As a photographer, I’ve had the honor of attending a few weddings of all shapes and sizes. With a little experience, I’ve learned about how much time things usually take, along with a few tips and tricks to get you hitched without a hitch ;). Here’s a basic example of the different categories of pictures we’ll want to make sure to cover on your wedding day, along with about how much time you might need and the order in which they usually happen:
DETAILS (30 minutes)
The photographers will arrive and split up – one with the bride, and one with the groom. First of all, we’ll need to warm up with the detail shots. You’ll want to have any important items gathered together and ready for their close-ups, so we can take some time to find the prettiest locations and lighting to perfectly complement your most important personal touches.
With the Bride: rings*, bouquets, dresses (on nice hangers), jewelry, perfume, shoes, veil, garter, “something new/ borrowed/ blue,” invitation/ envelope/ etc., unique or sentimental items
With the Groom: cuff links, boutonnieres, tie & tie clip, watch, pocket square or handkerchief, cologne, shoes, unique or sentimental items
* Make sure to have someone give the bride’s wedding band to the best man before the ceremony. The bride usually keeps the engagement ring on for her portraits.
GETTING READY (at least 1 hour)
Back in the bride’s room, we’ll be getting pictures of hair being curled, makeup being applied, and plenty of candids as you relax with your closest friends and family. We don’t want anyone to feel rushed, but we will need to make sure we’re staying on schedule so the rest of the day can run smoothly. There should be a specific time (within the last 20-30 minutes) when ALL hair and makeup ends, and the bride’s mother and/or bridesmaids will help the bride put on her dress, veil, jewelry, and shoes. This should also allow us to spend a few minutes photographing the bride’s finished look and small details before heading out for group portraits (or a small cushion if we’re running late).
The guys usually don’t need as much time to get ready as the girls, but we want to make sure to get some pictures of the groom buttoning his jacket and cuff links, adjusting his tie, or tying his shoes. We’ll get plenty of candids, a few individual portraits with the groom, and move straight into group pictures when we can.
FIRST LOOK, BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS (15 – 30 minutes)
It’s something most couples dismiss right off the bat, opting for the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony, but the moment a groom first lays eyes on his blushing bride is one of the most beautiful things at a wedding – why delegate it to a fraction of a second? With a first look, you’ll get emotional, intimate pictures of both your reactions, as well as a few quiet minutes to spend together and cherish the moment, instead of only one or two rushed shots as the ceremony begins.
Choosing to have a first look can also be a smart decision if you’re tight on time. If we can get a majority of the formal group pictures out of the way beforehand, then your friends and family can go straight to enjoying cocktail hour and greeting your guests after the ceremony, and the newlyweds can escape for a few more pictures together.
WEDDING PARTY (10 – 20 minutes)
After the first look, while you’re still getting a few more bride & groom pictures together, the second photographer will be getting pictures of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Then we’ll bring the everyone all together for the big group pictures!
If you didn’t opt for the first look, the bridal party and groom’s party group pictures would ideally be taken at the same time in different locations; but, if accidentally seeing each other is a risk, you’ll need to plan to take one of the group’s pictures an extra 30 minutes before the other.
FAMILY (10 – 20 minutes)
Before the ceremony is also a great time to go ahead and get group pictures with family, so everyone has less to worry about later. Even if you didn’t do the first look, we like to try and get as many family pictures as we can and save the rest for after the ceremony.
Organization is vital to getting these pictures finished quickly and efficiently. Make sure to give us a definitive list of who needs to be included in each specific shot you need, to make sure no one gets overlooked.
DECORATIONS (30 minutes before ceremony)
The girls should be completely finished with pictures and the bride hidden away no later than 30 minutes before the ceremony, as guests will be starting to arrive. This also gives everyone a perfect little break to freshen up before the ceremony begins.
At this point, your vendors should be just about finished setting everything up. One photographer will go to the reception area and the other will go to the ceremony, to get pictures of the location setup, details, decorations, table settings, and a few candids as guests arrive.
CEREMONY (30 – 45 minutes)
Certain venues (like churches) might have strict rules about where photographers can stand, whether or not we can move around, and whether or not we can use flash, so make sure to check with them and let us know. We’ll do our very best to be discreet and capture a variety of angles while you say your “I Do’s.”
Immediately following the ceremony, the second photographer will head back to the reception area to capture candids with your guests. The first photographer will stay with the bride and groom.
COCKTAIL HOUR (1 hour)
If you decided on a first look and got your group pictures out of the way, this time is all yours! It usually lines up perfectly with the most beautiful lighting of the day (the hour before sunset), so getting a few more couple’s portraits is a must!
If not, we’ll need to gather everyone together for quick bridal party and family group pictures. It’s a great idea to have your officiant announce exactly which family members need to stay behind, so no one runs away to the party too early.
RECEPTION (2 – 3 hours)
Party time!! As soon as the bride and groom are introduced to the reception, they usually go straight into the first dance, father/ daughter dance, and mother/ son dance. Then, it’s time to eat! (Since no one likes getting their picture taken while they’re chowing down, the photographers will usually take a quick break to eat too.) We’ll pick back up with the cake cutting, bouquet/ garter toss, dancing, and your grand exit!
Tips, Tricks, & Suggestions
• Keep in Mind: Every wedding is different! You’ll probably want to edit this schedule to consider the sunset time for your date & location, travel time between venues, weather, tides (if it’s on the beach), and any cultural traditions or special elements you want to include.
• Rehearsal: If at all possible, it can be a tremendous help for the photographer to visit your rehearsal, scout potential locations for portraits, and see exactly how your ceremony will be set up. No need to invite us to the dinner, though – we’ll need a good night’s sleep to be at our best for a busy day : )
• Lighting: Whether you’re getting married in a church or out on the beach, make sure to keep sunrise and sunset times in mind. You don’t want to get stuck in the dark! The two best times of day for pictures are the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, also known as the “Golden Hours.” If it’s possible, try to plan your bride & groom portraits for that time. If you’re getting married outdoors in the afternoon, beware the midday sun – direct overhead lighting causes harsh shadows, which is highly unflattering for pictures, and no one wants to be out in the relentless heat for too long. Consider seeking some open shade (like a big tree, porch, or tent); your guests will thank you, and you’ll avoid looking squinty or sweaty in your pictures.